we are coming up on the end of the homeschool year and as usual for this time of year, busy planning our annual cross-country journey to the mendocino area mountains of california. last year our theme was ‘natural disasters’ for which we visited all of the towns along route from florida’s panhandle, where we live. there was plenty to see, as i’m sure the recent tornadic activity brings to mind the devastation of last year’s storms, and flooding. (we also did some spelunking in south dakota)
this year’s theme is celestial events. we have timed our trip to arrive at “spider rock campgrounds” for the annular eclipse of the sun which occurs on may 20th and will be visible in the western united states from california to new mexico. then after spending some time with friends on the pacific coast we have planned to leave the area on the day of a lunar eclipse occurring on june 4th.
we always bring our camping gear along so as to pull off road and take in the beauty of nature. spend some time communing with the trees, talking to a river, swimming in a lake we find, or steaming our bodies in an out of the way and little known hot springs. it is such a joy to have both time and opportunity to do this with children, especially so because ziona is much like myself about such activities. sure, she’ll miss the xbox and dvd player, but she loves gathering wood for a campfire and finding a good nature trail.
it used to be much more difficult to take her places. even the three times a week ride off the mountain to her special needs programs or therapy used to cause the most intense tantrums. i learned that to bring along a portable dvd player and one of her recent ‘favourite’ movies was one way to deal. but many things used to be more of an ordeal with ziona. her autism used to make even the briefest of trips to the grocery store on the least busy of days a mammoth trial. the screaming and melt-downs often gained me some not-asked-for and probably not well-meaning suggestions from people standing behind us in line. things like: “if my kid ever acted like this, i’d give them an immediate spanking!” and even less kind remarks.
for folk like this i used to carry around a little lamenated business card that read: “my child has autism, a neurological developmental disorder. for more information, call:….”
i gave some of these out. some people’s remarks i addressed more directly, managing to keep my temper altho the attitudes of the persons i addressed seemed not to be in the slightest ‘reigned in’.
since i live alone and have no one to care for ziona while i shop or anything else, not bringing her along has never been an option. so we spent months ‘desensitising’ her to the environment of stores by having her ride in the cart, under an umbrella, with headphones on her head playing peaceful sounds. now she is much improved. the only tantrum coming when she’s denied something she sees and wants me to buy. i think this is a normal ‘kid’ thing.
with that as our previous reality, one can perhaps understand why i’m so elated about traveling with ziona these days. for the past three years she has been an easy rider, and a mostly happy camper. the hurdles seemed to disappear around three years ago. she potty-trained (finally! at 6 yrs old) she began to be less fussy about eating, her frustration level over little things has changed. she is all around just alot happier!
it happened at about the same time as i finally came around and let her live as a girl. it happened not at all gradually, but as if all at once something ‘gave’ and she was able to be just a bit more calm, a little less ‘on edge’. so of course the timing didn’t escape my notice. i think that it must have been very frustrating for her to have to live a ‘lie’. to always feel as tho no one was seeing her for herself. everyday to have even those the closest to you perceive you as something you’re not. i can’t imagine what that feels like.
now she skips, she smiles, she doesn’t scowl when someone remarks about her beautiful blue eyes. and she’s much easier to travel with on our long-hauls across country! we used to have to fly, just to make it all go faster by. but now she enjoys telling stories to while away the miles and picking out the perfect campsite.
whether it was all the desensitising and therapy finally ‘kicking in’ or the result of ziona being able to live outloud, something changed abruptly for the better about three years ago. and it’s made a world of difference in our lives, and her sense of peace. not that she doesn’t still have tantrums…just not 20 a day!
so even as we map out the places we want to see and things we want to do along the way for this year’s vacation, i remember a different and more important journey that we are on, together. her journey to becoming herself, and mine toward a broader view of reality. both of which are truly celestial events!